Thursday, April 30, 2009

What your heroes say about you

Many of us may not take the time to stop and think about what and why we admire our heroes. However, it is important because the qualities we admire in them are often qualities that we aspire to.

When you identify your heroes, you also identify common characteristics they uphold. It’s likely that these characteristics are the reasons you admire them. Think about it; test it out. You’ll discover that it’s true. You share a common value system with your heroes, or they wouldn’t make your list.

Remember, heroes don’t need to be famous. There are countless everyday heroes that come into our lives—friends, relatives, teachers, coaches—even co-workers and bosses. In a sense, the characteristics you admire in these folks are a take away—a bonus. Now, apply what you learn from these individuals to your own life and career. You won’t stop being yourself. Instead, you will move another step closer to discovering the real you. Best of all, uncovering that information can be extremely valuable—both personally and professionally.

Some of my heroes include Gloria Steinem, F. Scott Fitzgerald and my grandmothers.

Who are yours?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Learning to Say No

By nature, women are nurturers—the ones always helping others. While it’s admirable that we are always trying to be there for others, between work and family, our lives can get chaotic. In striving to be SuperMom, we often forget how and when to say no. Then, being overcommitted with no time for ourselves, we’re left feeling frazzled, burnt-out, despondent and not much good to anyone.

Fortunately, there are a couple things we can do. First, learn to set limitations for yourself. Instead of saying yes to everything, define the specific tasks that inspire you. Commit your time and talents to the tasks and organizations that make your heart sing. By doing so, your actions will be in sync with your heart, and that translates into a happier you.

Also, develop a support system of family, friends and co-workers who can help you. Surround yourself with these individuals and establish them as a network of real people in your life. Don’t try to do it all. Instead, let others help you.

Learning to say no and having others help you may take some getting used to, but the end result, a refreshed and rejuvenated you, is well worth it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tips to keep female consumers happy

Female consumers are often demanding, but they make a majority of all purchasing decisions—meaning they’re your No. 1 consumer. It’s in your best interest to make sure she’s happy. Here are some tips for doing just that.

  • Brainstorm how you can best touch base with your customers
  • Discuss which methods are working and which ones have flopped
  • Consider what you might do differently or better
  • Style your logo, colors and font in a way that is attractive to women
  • Design a Web site that is consumer-friendly and easy for busy women to navigate
  • Know what she likes and, more importantly, what she dislikes

Remember, your goal is to stay one step ahead of your consumer. Women are world-class consumers, making or influencing 85 percent of all purchases. That means they deserve your time and attention.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Say no to time thieves

Make sure you're focusing and not allowing time thieves to take advantage of you!

Did you know interruptions consume 28 percent of an average workday? It's true. And interruptions can be even more time-stealing if you're working from home and not setting limits. Case in point: the other day I was working from home. That's typically a great place to work, especially during school hours. But, one of my kids was home sick. She slept most of the time, but still needed checking, food and comfort. Then, I answered the home phone, instead of letting the answering machine grab it. A mom looking for help with the Lacrosse car wash this weekend. And finally, my oldest signed himself out of school and arrived home with a big project.

And what time does that leave for the things on my list? None, if I allow that to happen. But I can't. I've made a commitment to my business, to me and my team. If you're looking for a job or starting a business, this is vitally important. No matter what comes up, you need to remember that if you don't manage through the interruptions and still accomplish your tasks for today, you'll feel more stressed and less available tomorrow. And that ruins your weekend.

For me, my kids and for everyone else, I need to find a way to get it all done. Here's how:

1. Don't lose steam. Even if you need to take an hour out to comfort, to help, to run an errand, to go to an unexpected meeting, to whatever, get back on track as soon as you can.

2. If you're frustrated, let it out. Go for a walk. Express your frustration. Simply tell your kids, your spouse, your friend, your coworker that you're on a deadline so you need to make this meeting, appointment, errand, call, whatever, quick. To the point. It's ok to tell others you're rushed.

3. Practice saying this little word: NO. I'm not good at it yet, and you probably aren't either. Let's work on it, shall we?

4. Remember each day is a journey, just as your career and life are a journey. There is no straight path. Look at it as a continuum. Perhaps during this interruption, something you are learning, listening to or helping with holds a kernel of truth you can apply when you're back tackling your job at hand.

5. Just do it. Really. Now that you've paused to read this tip, you are fired up to get back at the task at hand. No more excuses.

I feel better. Hope you do, too. According to many surveys across numerous fields, we all want to feel joy and a sense of purpose about the work we do, the career we pursue. Have you found that? You deserve it. In this time of uncertainty, make a plan for yourself. Remember, it's about defining yourself in one word, and then defining your passions—your hobbies, interests, loves. Within those things, you'll find the answers, and you can begin to pursue them. The answers to fulfillment are within you. And—if the task you're putting off is one that is crucial to your new passion path, you really have no excuse! See #5.

Have a great weekend! Follow me on Twitter, and I'd love to be a friend on Facebook!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Entering the Business World Knowing Your Passion

This past week I was approached by a graduating college senior, and she had an excellent question.

“While my first choice is to find a job on my own, my family owns a business and they’d love for me to join them. Given the current state of the economy, should I consider joining the family business my best option?”

And after talking with her, I started to realize that is about the time when students are planning to set foot into the “real world” and are unsure about what’s next and which direction they should go. So to answer her question and to try and calm the fears of other students in her position, I say…

Don’t alter your passions. Do you really want to join the family business? Is it part of your passion? Or are you altering your passion for security? Will it make you wake up in the morning excited and ready to take on the world? That said, it is an option, and it’s one to consider temporarily if no alternative rises to the surface. In the meantime, here are a few things to consider when making your decision:

· Are you passionate about your family’s business?

· Is joining the business your dream—or is it your family’s dream?

· Do you have experience in the field, or will you have to learn?

· Will you have equal share in the decision-making, or will that evolve over time?

· Will there be times when you feel awkward because you came on board as a family member?

To all you graduating college seniors, find your passion, build your personal brand and start searching for companies with cultures inline with your passions. That is where you will prosper. And to future employers, start building a culture that will attract our Gen Y workers. They are entering the work force and desire inspiration!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Learn how Successful Women put Personality into Business

Does your business reflect your personality? My business, Real Living, does—it’s spunky, like me! And it is part of a new eBook that was recently released, called The Personality Project: “Women of Personality”. This free eBook, by Rohit Bhatgava, author of Personality Not Included, features 20 women who have successfully melted their personalities into their businesses.

Find out how they did it by downloading it from the Personality Project Web site.

Bhatgava is currently accepting submissions from women to be part of the second edition, scheduled to launch in early June. To submit yourself or someone you know, send an email to or post a short introduction to yourself on the wall of the Women of Personality Facebook Group.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It's time to de-stress, if ever so briefly!

It's tough out there. Whether you run your own business, work for somebody else or work at home taking care of the kids, things are tight. People are grumpy. Budgets are cut and, well, it's just plain stressful. That got me to thinking of tips I've heard and used to create a little peace and relaxation in the middle of the day.

Always remember, if you're stressed and in a bad mood, you project it through everything you do. Personally, my jaws clench, and I become short with people. And that's no fun, for me or them. I'm not as effective as a leader, a mother or a friend. And while a little stress is good for performance, a lot of stress throws you and your nervous system out of whack, leading to nasty physical consequences as well as leaving you vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

So, it's time for a break! Here are my five favorite tips.

1. Have a personal jam session. Get out the headphones and listen your favorite up-beat song. Nothing gets me moving like Tina Turner.

2. Get out of the office, or the house. Change the scenery! Take a 15-minute walk and get some fresh air. You will be more productive if you give your brain a rest.

3. De-clutter your desk. You will feel better instantly—I promise! The distracting call of “the piles” will be silenced, enabling you to concentrate on your next feat.

4. Connect. Talk to your team. Ask others about their day. If they're smiling, you're going to smile back. It's contagious! If you work alone, or you're home alone, call a best friend. She needs you as much as you need her right now.

5. Laugh. Yes, laughter is my cure all. Here's a great stat from my book: Preschool children laugh up to 400 times a day, but adults only laugh 17 times a day on average. C'mon! Take the edge off and have a little fun.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coworking Spaces Help Entrepreneurs Connect, Reduce Isolation

If you are like many other women entrepreneurs starting your own business, you are probably working from home. But for those who are use to working in a traditional business setting with lots of co-workers this transition can be isolating.

If you miss your co-workers to brainstorm with, the personal connections, and water cooler conversations, my suggestion is to try relocating your office to a coworking space. Coworking is where independent professional elect to work in a shared space. This type of work space always you to get out of the house and socialize with like minded- professionals and eliminates the need to spend hours at a local coffee shop. At most coworking locations, for a monthly fee, you are provided with all the essentials to help you launch and grow your business. To take a further look and see what coworking is all about check out Qwirk, location in German Village Columbus, Ohio.

Also, here is a video about coworking taking place in Austin, Texas.

So, if starting your business from home is to isolating join a coworking space. It will have you feeling inspired all over again. And best of all, you’ll leave that feeling of isolation behind.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sharing Your Secrets. Good or Bad?

Whenever women business owners get together they like to talk about their families and their business.

Unlike their male counterparts, women business owners, counterparts seek out the opinions and input of others. We know this from research conducted by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO). I believe that women benefit from this behavior. Of course, there are boundaries you’ll need to adhere to, but that shouldn’t stop you from gaining the wisdom and insight of others.

Connecting with others is a natural instinct for women. So don’t be afraid to get out there and start connecting by sharing trials, tribulations and success stories. Once you open up other women will too. But like I said there are boundaries, do share all the ins and outs, but be willing to help. And always remember, watch out for the snarks! They are out there and they will try to bring you down.

Still, it goes way beyond talking with friends and people you meet. And beyond talking to other women business owners, if you have a team, ask for their ideas too! It’s important to solicit their input as well. In doing so, you’ll make them feel like valued members of the team, and you’ll benefit from a variety of opinions and perspectives.

So as you head off to your next gathering don’t feel like you have to hold back. Be open and willing to share. Those you are sharing with will be appreciative and you may even learn something from them!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Building a Culture that Empowers

When starting and building a business, one of the most important components is your competitive advantage. And with that unique competitive advantage, you are able to build a great culture.

You culture should be a reflection of your combined personal and business brands. To start building your culture, envision your workplace.

What spells success for your company? Is it an open floor plan or cubicles? What colors are the walls? How is the space lit? What are the attitudes of your employees as they walk in the door on a Monday morning?

Also, consider the following questions and more.
•How do you define culture? Words, symbols, images? Get specific.
•What’s your dress code?
•Will you offer flexible hours?
•Will you have holiday parties?
•Are employees free to work from home or the local coffee shop?

These are just a few jumping off points for building a culture. You are a unique individual with specialized talents. Be sure your culture truly represents you and your business.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Every experience enriches you - cherish every moment!

You were born to succeed. You need to believe that. It’s true.

It’s also true that if the life you’re living or the path you’re following starts to get you off track, you’ll be given guidance in order to get back on the path. The guidance may be subtle – or it could be a big and painful lesson. But either way, you’re learning. It’s so hard to realize this as you’re living your life, especially while we’re all in the middle of the global cultural and financial shift. And – as an entrepreneur - as you work to make your business dreams come true there never seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish your goals, let alone the time to reflect on the lessons you’re learning along the way.

The truth is, there never will be enough time. Ever. Once you realize this basic fact, you free yourself to cherish the moments, the minutes. To celebrate holidays with family, while taking a break from work by turning off your computer for awhile. Take a walk with a friend, or simply sit peacefully and watch the sunset even if you’re not on vacation. Laugh and play, even if you don’t have kids around you – but especially if you do. Enrich your soul this weekend by filling your heart with joy and spreading that joy to everyone you encounter.

And if you’re celebrating Easter this weekend, celebrate! Make plans. Hug. Step away from the business and look around you and realize your blessings. They are plentiful, as plentiful as your unique personal gifts.

“Every experience we have and will have upon earth encourages the alignment of your personality with your soul.” ~ Gary Zukav

Note: I sent this out as my Tip of the Week today, but if you aren't signed up for it, I thought you may enjoy reading it today as it's a timely message. To sign up for next week's tip, click here!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Empowering Cultures Attract Positive People

Businesses often go through growing pains. Sometimes good; sometimes bad. And right now, many companies are facing the pressures of having to downsize. However, there are some companies that are prospering and need to hire more employees.

To ensure that you hire the best and most well-fitting employees, my advice is to create a great culture; one that is inviting and represents your company’s outlook. Potential employees will use your culture as a guide for gaining insight on your company. And, if you misrepresent your company’s culture, you may end up wasting time interviewing candidates that are not a good fit for your company.

To ensure your culture is truly representative of your company’s brand, first take a quick inventory of your surroundings. How would you define the culture you’ve created up to this point? Is it stiff or fun? Casual or crazy? Formal or informal? Do these qualities really represent your company? Although these things may seem small and relatively insignificant, they’re not.

Simple, inspiring cultures attract A-list candidates. It’s no secret that people want to feel inspired by their jobs. They want to participate in something sustainable and worthwhile. That’s why creating a real, creative and stimulating culture will contribute to your success.

Make sure that each employee understands your brand essence and your vision for the company. It goes way beyond just telling employees what you’re about. You’ve got to live it daily.

Remember, if your personal brand and your business brand are in alignment, it shouldn’t be hard to attract the right individuals. You want real people who are attracted to your company and what you’re trying to achieve. Now, go get ‘em!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's never too late to tell you about trends, is it?

Ok, here's a funny story. My friend Stefan Swanepoel is THE real estate trends guy. He publishes a well-researched, well-read Trends Report each year and the industry folks who are smart, read it. I realize it's April, and first quarter is over, BUT I am finally reading the report! In my defense, for some unknown reason, it took two months to arrive from California to my mailbox in Ohio. (Yes, even reports don't want to visit Ohio if they're from Laguna Nigel.) But enough excuses. I learned a lot, and here are the trends that resonated with me:

1. Real estate is in the "transformation years", and those years will continue until 2012 (yikes!)

2. Social media is a real estate agent and company's friend! (yay!)

I'm not going to dwell on the negatives surrounding point 1 above, as I'm sure if you live in a home or know someone who does you've heard just about enough even if you aren't a real estate agent. But point 2 is exciting! As Stefan writes, "some 530 million individuals are now participating in some sort of social networking . . .and each person on average belongs to two or three social networks."

That's huge, in my industry and yours. If you aren't out there blogging and tweeting about your expertise in a meaningful and helpful manner—as a real estate agent it is your local market knowledge and your niche knowledge-you're missing out on customers. As Stefan writes: "Real estate professionals have an excellent opportunity to take advantage of this emerging trend by influencing others through creating meaningful content and releasing it through blogs, online communities, wikis and social networks....only 18 percent of online Americans actually create content or publish an article or blog at least once a month."

So get out there and get writing. You are an expert in your field, and you have something your tribe wants to read about. Write it, and they will follow!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Building a Professional Network

We always hear that building professional networks is vital to success, but it should also be noted that your network should reach beyond family and friends.

Family and friends are great, and most of us would be lost without them. They create a great support system in a wide variety of situations—including helping you fulfill your dreams. However, if you’re talking business, you really need to expand your network. Most women rely on family members as their primary network, but these individuals don’t always have access to meaningful business information—like new leads, business experts or financial advice.

Your contacts should be people who will help you develop your competitive advantage. You need diversity of opinions and backgrounds, so as you build your network, try to include individuals with varying backgrounds and expertise. Ideally, it should be people who don’t work for you. That way you can benefit from different perspectives and ideas. You can begin by joining and participating in social media sites and joining local professional networking groups. So, get out there and start reaching out.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Finding a Balance that Works for You

Women continually struggle with work-life balance. There are many women who believe there is this set, generic and ideal form of balance. However, that is just not the case. Balance differs for everyone. What works for your co-worker may not work for you. And what works for you may not work for your neighbor. Everyone is different and has a different job and your work-life balance should reflect that. Also, many women believe that their personal and business life should be completely different. But instead hear this: Your business is your personal life.

By that I mean if you develop your business around your personal brand essence, then the real you will rise to the surface. You’re a package. Your values, personality—even your passions—they all come together to create a personal brand that defines you. Now take it one step further and incorporate that brand into your business.

There are steps for accomplishing this goal, and I talk about them in great detail in my book, but the basic concept remains the same: Make your personal brand and your business brand one. And don’t forget that it all has to happen within the guidelines of authenticity. Don’t be a fake. Stay genuine and true to your passions and your ideals. Balance is only achieved if and when you stay true to your passions—and you refuse to separate your business brand from your personal brand.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mastering Phone Interviews

So, you’ve scored your first interview with a reporter. Woohoo! I know that feeling. It’s exhilarating the first minute; the next is filled with panic. Don’t worry. It’s time to get serious and start preparing.

  • Do your homework. Check out the reporter. What beat do they cover? What’s their style? What companies have they covered in your industry?
  • Nail down the key messages you want to get across. Put together your talking points. What are your three main points and supporting facts?
  • Consider all questions you may be asked. What’s the worst-case scenario question? Make sure to do a mock interview with a teammate to help you get comfortable.
  • Stand up during the interview. It sounds odd, and people walking by might chuckle, but it helps you get focused. You’re less likely to go off on a tangent in this power stance.
  • Nix distractions. Shut down your computer and turn off your phone. The less distractions, the easier it is to deliver a clear, concise message. Speaking of phones, use a landline instead of your cell phone if possible.
  • Don’t market yourself through the interview. Journalists despise this, and being overly promotional may ruin your chances of getting interview No. 2.
  • If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess. Be frank and tell the reporter you’ll get back to them with the information.
  • Remember, there is no such thing as “off the record.” End of story.
  • Post-interview, feel free to thank the journalist via email. But don’t send them gifts. They’re not allowed to accept them, and they’ll just wind up in a closet somewhere.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be prepared for a knock-out interview. Go get ‘em!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Of fortune cookies and creative business for times like these

Here is what’s great about Twitter. Yesterday I tweeted about my fortune cookie message: Look for the dream that keeps coming back. It is your destiny. About three hours later, FortuneKookie Crew from Chicago followed me on Twitter. Their goal: “We like to follow people who tweet fortune messages!” Works for me!

Where else but Twitter? On a more serious business note, I was followed by the founders of Lauren Porat and her partner, Cari Sommer, created a company—beta testing in NYC right now—to connect small business owners with college educated assistants, on a paid or unpaid basis. I love hiring interns at our company. We always learn from them, and hopefully the feeling is mutual. And sometimes, when it’s possible and the fit is right, these intern positions turn into full time employment. And everybody’s a winner. In today’s tough economic environment, which is about to see an influx of college grads, interning is a great solution.

Who else have I “met” on Twitter? So many great folks! It’ll be fun to make this a regular feature of my blog. And, just like an intern, I learn something everyday! And that’s fortunate.

Kaira Rouda is an entrepreneur and author of Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs. Sign up for a weekly dose of inspiration!